Archive for February, 2010

SITUATION NORMAL SNAFUS

February 27, 2010

 This is a World War I peace poster, one of hundreds done for a national high school student peace art competition.  the sentiment carries from generation to generation, but thus far, the message has been ignored.  In fact, one dollar spent on peace is worth ten wasted in war.

Healthcare Summit Ends in Deadlock; Single-Payer Advocates Excluded, 2010 by Democracy Now!

After nearly seven hours of televised debate, President Obama’s so-called bipartisan healthcare summit ended Thursday without any substantive agreement between Republicans and Democrats. Republican lawmakers remained staunchly opposed to using the federal government to regulate health insurance. We speak to Columbia Journalism Review contributing editor Trudy Lieberman and pediatrician Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program. VIDEO: http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/02/26-0

Coffee Hit by Global Warming Say Growers, February 27, 2010 by Agence France-Presse

GUATEMALA CITY – Coffee producers say they are getting hammered by global warming, with higher temperatures forcing growers to move to prized higher ground, putting the cash crop at risk.

“There is already evidence of important changes” said Nestor Osorio, head of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), which represents 77 countries that export or import the beans.

“In the last 25 years the temperature has risen half a degree in coffee producing countries, five times more than in the 25 years before,” he said.

Sipped by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, coffee is one of the globe’s most important commodities, and a major mainstay of exports for countries from Brazil to Indonesia.

But producers meeting in Guatemala this week are in a state of panic over the impact of warming on their livelihoods.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/27-0

Profiting from the Inside? Friedmanism at the Fed, February 26, 2010 by The Nation by Greg Kaufmann.

Ongoing Congressional investigations into the AIG bailout have put the incestuous and murky relationship between the Federal Reserve and Wall Street in the spotlight–and put Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Fed chair Ben Bernanke in the hot seat. Calls for Geithner’s resignation regularly reverberate inside the Capitol, and Bernanke’s recent reappointment was opposed by thirty senators, including Republican John McCain and independent Bernie Sanders. Critics from both sides of the aisle fault Geithner and Bernanke for mismanagement, unnecessary secrecy and undermining Congressional oversight. But neither of them has been the target of questions about gaming the system for personal financial gain.

That distinction belongs to Stephen Friedman, the former chairman of the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and a member of the board of directors of Goldman Sachs. Through those two posts, Friedman may have had access to privileged information about the extent of Goldman’s exposure to AIG and the opportunity to profit from the Fed’s bailout of the beleaguered insurance giant. While he was serving on both boards, Friedman purchased 52,600 shares of Goldman stock, more than doubling the number of shares he owned. These purchases have since risen millions of dollars in value–and raised allegations of insider trading. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/26-4

US Congress Extends Patriot Act without Privacy Improvements, February 26, 2010 by Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON – US lawmakers voted to extend key parts of the Patriot Act law enacted after the September 11th attacks without adding privacy safeguards sought by the White House’s Democratic allies.

US lawmakers voted Thursday to extend key parts of the Patriot Act law enacted after the September 11th attacks without adding privacy safeguards sought by the White House’s Democratic allies. (AFP/Getty)

The US House of Representatives, following the Senate, voted 315-97 to renew the counter-terrorism tools, sending the legislation to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

Lawmakers extended authorities’ power to use roving wiretaps to track an individual on several telephones; to track a non-US national suspected of being a “lone-wolf” terrorist not tied to an extremist group; and to seize personal records seen as critical to an investigation.

While court approval is required for the wiretaps and the seizures, Democrats and civil liberties groups had hoped to beef up privacy and oversight safeguards, but lacked the votes to overcome Republican opposition. READ MORE:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/26

The Power of Local, February 26, 2010 by YES! Magazine by Jeff Milchen

Local businesses are educating communities, changing economic policies, and even outperforming chain competitors.

The 2009 holiday season was a tough one for retail businesses. In November, their sales increased just 1.8 percent over low 2008 numbers-failing to keep pace with inflation. December was worse, with sales actually falling three tenths of a percent from 2008.

But in more than a hundred communities across North America, independent community-based businesses had a more positive story to tell. A nationwide survey of more than 1,800 independent businesses by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) found them outperforming chain competitors. Most notably, the survey found independent retailers in communities with active “Buy Independent” or “Buy Local” campaigns reported an increase in holiday sales three times stronger (up three percent) than those in cities without such campaigns (up one percent).

Given the current inflation rate of 2.7 percent, the benefit of such campaigns could mean the difference between success and failure for many store owners. “Amid the worst downturn in more than 60 years, independent businesses are succeeding by emphasizing their community roots and local ownership,” says Stacy Mitchell, who executed the survey.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/26-8

American puffery about its advanced technology, science, culture, invention, and general all-around greatness.  There was a spirit of enterprise, full of energy and raring to go. Americans believed that they could work and invent themselves out of any crisis.  Their future was pure Progress. RAGTIME ENTERTAINMENT at TheAttic Gallery

 

Advertisements

HARD LABOR II

February 26, 2010
 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spends at least $180 billion per year on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1500 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, as of September 2012, 47.7 million Americans were receiving on average $134.29 per month in food assistance, or $6.4 billion total.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

POLLUTER BORN EVERY MINUTE

gonefishin'

Donna Edwards’ No Corporate Monopoly of Elections Amendment by John Nichols February 4, 2010 by The Nation

Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards turned to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for guidance in framing the Constitutional amendment she proposed Tuesday as the right and necessary response to the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a high court majority to abandon law and precedent with the purpose of permitting corporations to dominate the political discourse.

Brandeis knew that giving corporations monopoly power over our economic life or our politics would be deadly to democracy.

“The ruling reached by the Roberts’ Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns. Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision,” Edwards said Tuesday. “A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens.”

Edwards explains the amendment in a powerful video

Edwards does not stand alone. In addition to an array of public interest groups including Public Citizen, Voter Action, The Center for Corporate Policy and the American Independent Business Alliance, the congresswoman’s proposed amendment is being backed by House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is the dean of civil libertarians in Congress.

Here is the text of the legislation proposed by Edwards and Conyers:

JOINT RESOLUTION:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

‘‘ARTICLE—

‘‘SECTION 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

‘‘SECTION 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.’

Edwards and Conyers may soon have a Senate sponsor for their amendment proposal.

Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee declared: “As legislators, we have a duty to carefully consider the constitutional questions raised by legislation.  I urge you to do your duty but not be dissuaded from acting by fear of the Court. This terrible decision deserves as robust a response as possible. Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/04 

“He was the biggest asshole at Goldman Sachs!”

OIL NUKES COAL

February 16, 2010

Oil Giants Demand Open Market for World’s Dirtiest Fuel, February 15, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Oil Groups Mount Legal Challenge to California’s Tar Sands Ban by Terry Macalister.

A lobby group that includes BP and Shell in its membership has launched a legal challenge against low-carbon legislation in California that in effect rules out the use of oil from Canadian tar sands. The action by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) comes amid growing political, investor and consumer pressure on US oil companies not to participate in the carbon-intensive tar sands of Alberta.

A NPRA statement said the legislation was unlawful for a number of reasons, including the imposition of “undue and unconstitutional burdens on interstate commerce”.

It claimed the legislation would also have “little or no impact” on greenhouse gas emissions nationwide and would harm US energy security “by discouraging the use of Canadian crude oil and ethanol produced in the American midwest”.

The refiners are joined by the American Trucking Associations and the Centre for North American Energy Security in their attempt to overturn legislation from California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wants to cut C02 emissions from transport by 10% by 2020.  READ MORE:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/15-0

Nuclear Does Not Make Economic Sense Say Studies by Julio Godoy. February 15, 2010 by Inter Press Service

BERLIN – The enormous technical and financial risks involved in the construction and operation of new nuclear power plants make them prohibitive for private investors, rebutting the thesis of a renaissance in nuclear energy, say several independent European studies.

The risks include high construction costs, likely long delays in building, extended periods of depreciation of equipment inherent to the construction and operation of new power plants and the lack of guarantees for prices of electricity.

Adding to these is the global meltdown and the consequent cautious behavior of investors as also fiscal and revenue difficulties of governments in the industrialized countries, say the studies.

In the most recent analysis on the feasibility of new nuclear power plants, the Citibank group concludes that some of “the risks faced by developers … are so large and variable that individually they could each bring even the largest utility company to its knees financially.”

The Citibank paper, titled ‘New Nuclear – The Economics Say No‘, lists five major risks developers and operators of new nuclear power plants must confront. These risks are planning, construction, power price, operational, and decommissioning. According to the study, most governments in industrialized countries today have only “sought to limit the planning risk” for investors.

But, while it is “important for encouraging developers to bring forward projects, [planning] is the least important risk financially,” the survey goes on. According to the Citibank group, the most important risks are construction, power price, and operational. The paper dubs these risks “the corporate killers.”

Environmental activists would add safety issues as another major risk – both the handling of highly radioactive nuclear waste and the likelihood of accidents at nuclear power stations.

The Citibank bases its conclusions on estimated costs of construction and operation and in the necessity of setting too high electricity prices for consumers, and which have seldom been reached in the past.

According to the paper, the costs of constructing a new nuclear power plant range between 2,500 to 3,500 euros (3,420 US dollars) per kilowatt hour. READ MORE:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/15-6

Republican Strategy: You Are Either with Coal, or Against Us, February 15, 2010 by Politico.com

GOP Mines Coal-Country Anxieties by Jonathan Martin

Republicans believe there are three words so powerful that they might reshape the political order in an economically beleaguered corner of the country: War on coal.

With Democrats holding total control of the federal government and a cap-and-trade bill still looming, the GOP is fanning widespread coal country fears that the national Democratic Party is hostile to the coal mining industry, if not outright committed to its demise.

Those efforts are putting a group of coal state Democrats at risk as Republicans leverage the tremendous economic anxieties surrounding the future of an industry that is a vital part of their states’ economies.

In West Virginia and Kentucky, longtime Democratic House incumbents with solid records on the issue are taking heavy flak. Across the border in Virginia, a veteran Democrat could face his most serious challenge yet in part because of his support of cap and trade. Two junior lawmakers from Ohio are facing threats for the same reason.

The issue may loom largest in West Virginia, where coal mining is an integral part of the culture and makes up a full quarter of the state’s revenues.

A well-known former state supreme court judge switched his party registration to run against 17-term incumbent Rep. Nick Rahall in the state’s coal-heavy south and wasted little time in raising the issue.

“West Virginians deserve a congressman who will fight to end this war on coal instead of standing by idly as thousands of local jobs are threatened,” said Elliott “Spike” Maynard in launching his campaign last month.

In an interview with POLITICO, Maynard said: “Our part of the world and way of life is threatened by liberal Democrats in Washington.”

He pointed out that some environmentalists want to stop all surface mining, the above-ground technique that happens to account for about 40 percent of the state’s coal jobs.

His message, he said, was simple: “If you vote for Spike Maynard, you’re voting for your job and to mine coal. If you’re against me, you’re voting against your job and against mining coal.” READ MORE:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/15-3

AFL-CIO to Obama: Enough is Enough by Richard Trumka.

Today the AFL-CIO sent out the following Action Alert:

Dear xxxx,

We’ve just learned that the Senate and the White House cut a last-minute deal with obstructionist Republicans to approve some of President Obama’s nominees. But guess who was left out of the deal? Yup, that’s right: working people.

Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, highly respected labor lawyers whom President Obama nominated for seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), weren’t included in the deal. Meanwhile, the NLRB, tasked with protecting American workers’ rights, has been handicapped with vacancies for the past two years.

Enough is enough. Call the White House switchboard today and demand that President Obama fight Republican obstructionism and use his executive power to appoint Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the NLRB during the Presidents Day recess.

Call the White House Switchboard NOW: 202-456-1111 OR 202-456-1414.

Becker already has received majority backing in the Senate and both won committee support, but the Republican minority has continually blocked their appointments. America’s working people are getting short shrift and it’s past time to do something about it. Workers need an NLRB that can enforce the National Labor Relations Act and protect workers’ rights-not an NLRB handicapped by vacancies.

In solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
AFL-CIO President

http://www.commondreams.org/further/2010/02/12-3

WE, THE PEOPLE

February 6, 2010

Remember?

Donna Edwards’ No Corporate Monopoly of Elections Amendment by John Nichols February 4, 2010 by The Nation

Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards turned to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for guidance in framing the Constitutional amendment she proposed Tuesday as the right and necessary response to the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a high court majority to abandon law and precedent with the purpose of permitting corporations to dominate the political discourse.

Brandeis knew that giving corporations monopoly power over our economic life or our politics would be deadly to democracy.

“The ruling reached by the Roberts’ Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns. Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision,” Edwards said Tuesday. “A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens.”

Edwards explains the amendment in a powerful video

Edwards does not stand alone. In addition to an array of public interest groups including Public Citizen, Voter Action, The Center for Corporate Policy and the American Independent Business Alliance, the congresswoman’s proposed amendment is being backed by House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is the dean of civil libertarians in Congress.

Here is the text of the legislation proposed by Edwards and Conyers:

JOINT RESOLUTION:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

‘‘ARTICLE—

‘‘SECTION 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

‘‘SECTION 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.’

Edwards and Conyers may soon have a Senate sponsor for their amendment proposal.

Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee declared: “As legislators, we have a duty to carefully consider the constitutional questions raised by legislation.  I urge you to do your duty but not be dissuaded from acting by fear of the Court. This terrible decision deserves as robust a response as possible. Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/04 

University of Wisconsin law professor Joel Rogers says, “Public opinion in the United States is conventionally mapped on a liberal-conservative axis understood to run from government do-gooders without values on one end to free marketeering rich people without hearts at the other end. Most people in America place themselves in the middle. They don’t find either end particularly attractive. Today, the fight isn’t really between liberals and conservatives but between the workers/consumers/citizens who actually want the economy to reflect our values and those who want to keep things the way they are with a few irresponsible corporations running the country for their own benefit. In that fight we can win. It’s our country. Let’s run it for the people.”

Citizen Paine

Paine may be the only true revolutionary in our Revolution.  His ideals bring common people together as a community.  No one is above the law.  Justice and fairness shall prevail.  Everyone gets to vote.  He argued for social security, childcare reform, universal health care, animal cruelty penalties and animal shelters 225 years ago!

He warned us to watch, guide, and stop the powerful elite if we want humanity in general to succeed.  He proposed that any bill that enriches a corporation or grants a corporate charter should be enacted in one session of the legislature, and confirmed in a second, after a vote of the people, to stop corporate raids on the public treasury.

One Nation Indivisible.